I am proud of what I do. I love the feeling of doing something different from what others are doing. These are the typical sentiments and stereotypical statements one would ideally expect from someone who works for a startup. Startups have definitely gone up on the preference graph of career hunters today. Most of it is the result of the above sentiments, which incidentally is very true of a startup and the people behind and with it.
However if we assume (I for one definitely did), that working in a startup is now in and well accepted by everyone, a reality check is in order.
A few days back I happened to chance upon one of my so called MNC friends. After the usual banter I was posed with the usual what are you upto these days query. As usual I was ready with the stereotypical replies which I give with emotions worthy of a broadway play. I expected a petite pat on the back and an exclamation of how lucky I am to be doing so many wonderful things, so early on in my career. But I was really stumped when all I got was a funeral worthy look and a question, “How long do you think it will survive?”
Precisely the reality check I needed.
A number of people join startups today because of the general notions like a “startup allows you to take charge of your work, it allows you to explore your creative instincts and passion, along with allowing you to explore uncharted opportunities and great learning.” These notions I admit are true to the last letter.
However its not just fulfilment of these understandings or assumptions for many. In addition to these, being a startup employee is also about answering numerous questions, pertaining to your life. And some of these are actually very serious and important to your life.
A few of these questions are those that people around you ask you (case above in question), which can be easily attended to. However more serious are the questions which you would ask yourself, questions which are similar to what others ask you. Being a startup employee, I often find me asking myself:
- What am I doing: I ask this question to myself every night after I come back home. This doesn’t imply that I don’t know what I am doing. This question is just a result of a mixed day at work (and startups are all about mixed days, atleast most of the time) wherein I feel at the end of the line, having just finished a day and half a night of work, but still planning for the next day and half a night’s work.
- Will I have a future: Startups are never meant to be without risk and security is a word we normally do not talk about in startups. When I see my equals, maybe from college or from my initial workplaces moving ahead (atleast for the time being) with higher pay packets and the comfy lifestyle, while I still trudge around trying to make ends meet and of course during extremely bad times trying to figure out if I will have a job tomorrow, this is a question that haunts me no end.
- Why don’t I have anyone to share what I feel about: Startups are lonely planets and the people from them more so. I daresay it would not be wrong if I am sometimes termed as a social pariah, because of the way I keep turning down meeting up friends or even those long chats with my folks from home. On moderately good days (sometimes when we make even a modest 3000 bucks), I can hardly make people understand what I am so excited about. On sad and bad days, I can’t tell people around why am I moping because under all circumstances it would obviously lead to my work life. Even your closest folks, who will initially try and give you the good reactions, slowly tire of you and your never ending work. Thankfully I don’t have a girlfriend, who would probably have given up on me the first day itself unless she was from that rare understanding species. All of these and when I finally have to share something, I can only ask, why can’t I share what I feel with anyone?
Frankly speaking I do not have an answer to any of these questions because any answer that I come up with eventually seems to lose its weightage. However what I do try doing is not to answer these questions, instead I try moderating them.
Most startup work dreams are eventually broken because of the inability to cope with questions as such. It’s important to cope or to moderate them therefore. For me talking to people who understand my efforts helps. It may be my parents, a few friends or even to the people at work (who would probably understand it the best). Hence I make it a point to catch up on at least a minimal time to just talk.
One could also try giving a few minutes daily to refocus on the objectives of coming into a startup, because that too gets one clued into what was the original reason of joining the startup bandwagon. There are many more things to do, but the only focus is to cope, because unless you do that, the point of being a startup employee gets lost amongst other questions.
Being a startup employee is not easy. In fact it’s as tough as actually starting up. However the way you moderate the situations because of your work life, to have a life is what makes you stick. This is because eventually being a startup employee isn’t just about having a highly populated work life and a minimal personal life or any such myths. Being a startup employee is more of about how you make your work an extension of your life (not balance it) and move ahead with the vision that comes with the startup. This doesnot answer the questions or the doubts, but it reinforces the reasons because of which you came into a startup in the first place and allows you to do what you initially set out to do, regardless of the startup’s successes or failures.
Rupam joined the startup bandwagon almost immediately after his Masters, and since then has been working with FindYogi, a consumer web product from Bangalore based startup Wowway Labs where he leads talent acquisition, content marketing and management, media relations. He can be found here and followed on twitter at @rupamRg